Protein: Short and Sweet

200908311113035246My hair is protein sensitive. While I occasionally use a protein treatment (about every 12 weeks), I have to be very conscientious about what type it is, how long to leave it on, and immediate aftercare. Many times, people will use protein when they are experiencing serious hair troubles (ie. breakage). When I use protein, I use it because of the stress of my active lifestyle (daily workouts, chlorine exposure, and the styling demands of travel).

Although many people decry the use of any type of protein treatment for natural hair, the truth is that our hair, a protein itself, needs the reinforcement of other proteins. The key is the aftercare of the hair once a protein treatment has been applied.

Protein is a fortifier; that is, it is used to make the hair stronger. On my hair, after a protein treatment, I notice significantly more shrinkage and dryness (in the minutes following the treatment) and combing through it, even with fingers or a wide-tooth comb is not really feasible. The antidote is….MOISTURE! I follow with a moisturizing deep conditioner and use Cute & Kinky Hair Moisturizer for styling.

In order to get positive results from protein treatments, the proper ratio or balance of moisture must be present. After using a stronger protein treatment, you must redeposit moisture into your locks or you will not get the results you want and may even end up with more breakage than you had before the treatment.

Types of Protein

The type of protein you use in your hair depends on what your purpose. Here’s a quick general guideline:

Wheat protein is known for strengthening and helping to retain moisture. I have found that my hair is less crunchy after using a treatment that is based on wheat protein. Although wheat is known for helping to retain moisture, you do not want to neglect moisturizing the hair after using it.

Plant-based proteins (ie. soy) are also known for their moisture-enhancing properties.
The product I have used that includes both of these ingredients (wheat protein and plant polysaccharides) is Elucence Extended Moisture Repair Treatment.

Keratin protein is probably the most popular when it comes to protein hair treatments. It is known for strengthening to the point where some treatments advise its use only by professionals. However, there are plenty of keratin-based protein treatments that one can use at home. I prefer Spiral Solutions Repairing Protein Treatment because it has a mix of both keratin and plant-based proteins that allows me to avoid the dryness and crunchiness that protein treatments that use only keratin temporarily cause me immediately after rinsing.

Silk protein is often used for softening. I have never knowingly used it and cannot attest to the results.

Collagen protein, common in anti-aging skin cosmetics, is known for its ability to increase elasticity.

As a bonus, I recommend that the proteins in your treatment be hydrolyzed. This allows them to better penetrate the hair and therefore more efficiently achieve their purpose.

Moderation Is Key

I started this entry off saying that my hair is protein sensitive and it is. However, this does not mean that my hair cannot benefit from occasional protein treatments. Many times, naturals will use protein-sensitive strands to avoid protein altogether. The problem is that your hair will eventually need protein. A protein treatment every 8-12 weeks, followed by a moisture-infusing regimen, will not hurt you. However, a protein treatment every day or week, I do not recommend.

Final Thoughts

Several blogs back, I talked about diet and getting enough protein in the diet. That affects your hair so if you find that regardless of how solid your regimen is and that even protein treatments/protein conditioners are not helping your hair, you may want to introduce more protein into your diet.

*Photo of protein sequence by Markus Buehler from Massachusetts Institute of Technology found at

What’s It All Worth? Price v. Value

The desire to return to natural, like most things, has become big business. Something that, for most of us, has a deep-rooted personal meaning and even philosophical implications is now being marketed and even companies that previously showed no interest in ethnic hair are packaging new brands to claim their share of the market.

Oftentimes, I hear naturals comment on the fact that many of the leading brands of natural hair products are very costly. When going through the testing phase to see what works best for your hair and your hair goals, it may not be feasible to spend $25, $30, and more; especially when many brands are indistinguishable in terms of their ingredient profile and  include the same ineffective ingredients that ethnic hair products have included for decades.

This week’s blog has to do with being a value-conscious consumer while shopping for your hair care needs. To start, I want to make some delineations. Price, has to do with the cost of an item. At a “dollar store”, the price of the items is $1. There are many situations in which price, for any given item, is key for consumers. Value, on the other hand, has to do with the benefits of an item in relation to the price paid. The easiest way to illustrate this is to use a food analogy.

The price of a meal for one at an average fast food place is about $7. The price of the ingredients needed to make a homemade grilled chicken salad is about $20 (chicken breasts, lettuce, tomatoes, low-fat cheese, and any other assortment of vegetables) and could be more. At first glance, the fast food meal is the better option. At only $7, you can eat, get full and it tastes good as well; but it will only feed you once and isn’t the healthiest option. However, the $20+ for the salad ingredients can feed you for several meals, has a stronger vitamin and mineral profile, and won’t leave you with the debilitating “itis,”

While the fast food has a more attractive price point at first glance, the salad offers more value because of the benefits it offers.The nourishment that you receive from the salad is worth the $20+ price point.

So should it be with your choice of hair care products. You must remember that these choices are not just about looking nice in public. This is about the health of your hair and your body overall, as we know that our cosmetic products are penetrative.  It is much more beneficial to take a value-conscious stance when deciding and purchasing what works for you.

“But, Kristen. All I have is $20 to spend on my hair care regimen!” What I suggest is that you get the best products you can get for $20. No matter how much money you have, you don’t have to settle for cheap (in terms of quality) products just because of a limited budget. You can have healthy hair without going broke.

Until next week, you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.